10 Incredibly Unique Volunteer Opportunities Abroad
Looking for the best way to travel the world? There’s a melting pot of cultures, countries, wildlife, and landscapes all waiting for you to explore. While there are a number of different ways to travel, adding volunteering to your adventure has to be one of the most rewarding travel options. It lets you see amazing places that aren’t on most itineraries, authentic travel experiences, actually meet locals and make a positive difference to the places you’re visiting. Not only that but it’s an incredibly affordable way to travel - as you’re skipping the resorts and over-priced accommodation to instead support local businesses and sustainable local initiatives. There truly isn’t a better way to travel!
With 100s of volunteer ideas, there are amazing volunteer opportunities for you to experience and add to your travels - think volunteering in Africa on a Teaching project in the heart of Maasai land or taking part in Wolf Conservation in Portugal.
You’ll soon discover that International Volunteer HQ, the world’s most trusted volunteer abroad organization, is full of unusual volunteer opportunities! While we provide some of the most unique volunteer programs on earth, our programs won’t cost you the earth! Check out our affordable program fees to see what we mean. Join us in taking a closer look at some of our best places to volunteer or jump straight to what you’re looking for…
Different ways to travel and the best places to volunteer:
- Marine Conservation in Madagascar or Belize
- Maasai Teaching in Kenya
- Surf Outreach in South Africa
- Food Outreach in Belgium
- Victoria Falls Conservation Project
- Art and Community Outreach in USA - New Orleans
- Ramadan in Morocco
- Jungle Conservation in Peru
- Wolf Conservation in Portugal
- Women’s Education in India - Kerala
1. Marine Conservation in Madagascar or Belize
Love the ocean or island life? Then volunteering in Africa on the Madagascar program, or in the Caribbean on the Belize program is the perfect option for you. Both programs are based on incredibly unique islands and put the focus on marine conservation efforts. And, you can learn to scuba dive on both programs - awesome right!
Volunteers in Madagascar have the opportunity to join IVHQ’s unique Marine Conservation project, focusing on the protection of the marine ecosystems in Madagascar, with activities ranging from reef surveying to turtle monitoring. Alternatively, you could opt to join our Forest Conservation project, monitoring the native forest and wildlife on the beautiful island of Nosy Komba.
If you volunteer in Belize you’ll be living and volunteering on a private island 26 miles off the mainland of Belize. Prepare yourself for days spent spotting lionfish, corals, whale sharks and queen conch on a daily basis, as you work alongside Marine Biologists to gather data and conduct surveys and remove invasive species.
The project was really enjoyable and fun, I learned tons of new things and it was exactly what I expected. The accommodation was really good, I didn’t expect to live in such a nice, beautiful camp and we had such good meals. My favorite moments were diving every day, making wonderful friends from IVHQ, in the community and just being in Madagascar! Jean-Christophe Pelletier-de Koninck (IVHQ Volunteer in Madagascar)
2. Maasai Teaching in Kenya
Based deep in the heart Maasai land, and only accessible via a bumpy Matatu ride from Nairobi, the Maasai Teaching project provides a rare and authentic insight into the lives of Kenya’s Maasai tribes. Living conditions are basic yet rewarding, and your hosts will soon become your second family. Teaching volunteers in Kenya face large classes of children eager to learn, so make sure you pack plenty of energy! Plus the whole experience of teaching in the heart of Africa will magnify as soon as a giraffe wanders across the school field, or a baboon steals your lunch!
Even though the family lived with the bare minimum (no running water or electricity), they took us in as their own children and immediately made us feel at home. It’s been a year and my host mom still calls me to say hello and see how I’m doing! I would go back in a heartbeat! Marie Julie Malchow (IVHQ Volunteer in Kenya)
3. Surf Outreach in South Africa
Ocean on your doorstep, mountains in your backdrop - it doesn’t get better! Based in Cape Town, South Africa, you’ll spend your days working with a local team to teach children the art of surfing, while passing on valuable life skills. This after-school program works with children from challenging backgrounds who generally do not have the opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities. Not a pro surfer? No worries! Volunteers are also required to assist in the day-to-day running of the Surf Development center while taking advantage of the surfing lessons on offer in the mornings while the children are at school! Check out the South Africa Program here.
I absolutely loved every minute of it and I was there for 4 weeks. It was the most amazing experience of my life and taught me so much about myself and life in general. As much as I tried to influence those kids in a positive way, I guarantee that they influenced me in a much stronger way. I never thought I would learn something from a 10-year-old. Nicole Abma (IVHQ Volunteer in South Africa)
4. Food Outreach in Belgium
If you want to volunteer in Europe and give-back in a positive and responsible way then Belgium is the perfect option. This cool volunteer opportunity in Belgium means you’ll be supporting a local initiative to provide valuable assistance within soup kitchens and community centers in Brussels which cater to people who are homeless or living in poverty. It’s perfect for travelers that love cooking and bringing people from all walks of life together through food. You’ll quickly see the difference your contribution is making within the community.
Brussels is a multicultural city that perfectly blends history, hip culture, art and delicious comfort food. Think days filled with meaningful volunteer work, chocolate, waffles, fries and taking in unique landmarks. Belgium is also smack-bang in the middle of Europe and acts as an affordable gateway to adventures further afield.
I finished up yesterday at the center and thoroughly enjoyed my week. I met some amazing people along the way and was very impressed with how well-coordinated the project was. Thank you so much for all your support and guidance along the way. Shaun Grace (IVHQ Food Outreach Volunteer in Belgium)
5. Victoria Falls Conservation Project
Want to experience volunteering on a private game reserve, then stop your search and volunteer in Victoria Falls! Volunteers assist in the day-to-day management of a private game reserve, home to native wildlife and the ‘Big 5’ - lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo. Tasks include alien vegetation removal (you’ll never look at the lantana plant in the same way), fence patrols, general cleanups, animal tracking and more, all set near the stunning Victoria Falls. You’ll be accommodated in clean and comfortable dormitory-style accommodation, with the added opportunity to camp out under the stars in a once in a lifetime experience! Just remember to pack gloves, as the work is hard, and binoculars, as the wildlife and scenery are breathtaking!
I had the best six weeks of my life on this program. I made the most incredible friends from all over the World and had an amazing time. The program gave me more then I could have imagined in my wildest dreams. I learned so much about wildlife, conservation and ecology. Brendan Comerford (IVHQer Victoria Falls)
6. Art and Community Outreach in the USA - New Orleans
Whether you’re an American looking to volunteer within the USA or you’re coming from abroad - the IVHQ USA - New Orleans program is one of the best places to volunteer! With a number of meaningful volunteer opportunities to choose from you’ll have a hard time choosing what project to give-back on. Consider Environmental Sustainability, Housing and Homeless Support, Arts and Community Outreach and Neighborhood Renovation.
During your free time truly get to know everything this Louisianian city is famous for - mouthwatering food, soulful music and fun loving, welcoming people. The fusion of Cajun, Creole, French, and African roots have made this resilient American city a unique place to visit today.
7. Ramadan in Morocco
During the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims worldwide observe Ramadan. The IVHQ Ramadan projectallows volunteers the opportunity to experience the month of fasting from dawn until sunset within a Muslim culture while working with socially disadvantaged families. Your daily activities are focused on helping and working with local children in poor neighborhoods, organizing a range of activities, including sports activities and field trips, and helping out in local soup kitchens. As volunteers must observe the Ramadan customs while in Morocco, this project is sure to provide you with a unique cultural insight.
The Ramadan Program was an unbelievable experience. It gave me a chance to learn a lot about a culture I thought I knew about but now, realize how much more I learned having spent time in Morocco. Although being there during Ramadan was not easy, I recommend it to anyone. I feel like I did not only volunteer but that in a way I became Moroccan for two weeks. Clara Simon (IVHQ Volunteer in Morocco)
8. Jungle Conservation in Peru
You will be in nature’s domain on this program, there is no doubt about it, so if you have a passion for the environment or a thirst for something a bit different then this is the program for you! The Amazonian jungle is waiting - it’s a vast wilderness, packed with unknown creatures and stunning landscapes. On the Jungle Conservation project in Peru volunteers have the opportunity to experience living and working within this incredible ecosystem. If you need further inspiration, check out this IVHQer’s firsthand experience. Read about IVHQer Kristin Stone’s experience here.
After my first week on the project I was more impressed than ever by the plight to save the rainforest. The sanctuary certainly has an uphill battle but trying to protect some of the most amazing species this world has to offer is a worthy cause. Kristin Stone (IVHQ Volunteer in Peru)
9. Wolf Conservation in Portugal
The wolves have found a home at the conservation center after being rescued from illegal trapping, illegal captivity or arriving from zoos. These animals are not able to be released into the wild. Volunteers can participate in a wide range of day-to-day activities at the center, including assisting with animal feeding, checking water, maintenance of the center, cleaning and observing wolf behavior and movement.
The Wolf Conservation project is located in Mafra, about 45 minutes outside of Lisbon. Volunteers will be accommodated at the center and local staff will guide volunteers in their daily work. The project has a set duration of 2 weeks. With Portugal growing in popularity as a travel destination, this unique volunteer opportunity is an amazing way to explore a lesser-seen side of Portugal. In your free time you can head to Lisbon, a city bursting with colorful street art, cinematic hillsides, an exploding food scene and jazz-fueled nightlife.
This was one of the best things I have ever done. It taught me that you don’t need to be prepared for everything. Just take it as it comes, relax, and enjoy it all. Don’t stress about anything, just make the most of every moment. Amy Reed IVHQer in Portugal
10. Women’s Education in India - Kerala
Kerala is a unique place to volunteer in India - you’ll see a slower paced Indian lifestyle set against tropical backwaters, tea plantations, and the Arabian Sea. Women across India face a wide range of social inequalities. As a volunteer on the Women’s Education project, you’ll be volunteering your time on local initiatives that support and empower women and girls in the Fort Kochi area. Volunteers need to come with an open mind and a willingness to help where needed. This project does have a strong education focus because of the potential it has to change lives. Education develops confidence, opens the mind to new ways of the thinking, potential employment opportunities and
Great vibes! I made many new unforgettable friendships. Southern India is definitely different from the northern part and is astoundingly magical. Francisca Matias (IVHQ India - Kerala Volunteer)
Need help deciding which volunteer program suits you best? Check out How to Choose Your Volunteer Abroad Program or flick an email to one of the IVHQ Volunteer Travel Experts - we’d love to help you out!